WASHINGTON – Turkey will allow safe passage to militia fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan through its territory into Kobani, a Kurdish border city in Syria under siege by Islamic State, Ankara said on Monday.
The announcement was a significant policy shift by a government that has long been hostile to Kurdish nationalists. Turkey, a member of NATO, has not contributed military force to the US-led coalition against Islamic State, an extreme Islamist organization that controls much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
In a news conference, Turkey’s foreign minister said his government is now prepared to “help the peshmerga cross over” into the city, where the battle for control that began a month ago has cost both sides dear.
“There are efforts, and we are prepared to send some back-up forces either by land or air,” said Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq’s Peshmerga Ministry.
The Turkish move came hours after US C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft dropped weapons, ammunition and medical supplies on Kobani to aid the embattled Kurdish fighters. The aircraft flew in without any fighter escort, or resistance from Islamic State. The Pentagon has determined the group has no anti-aircraft capability.
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